Rory MacMahon – Life at the Bar Event

On Wednesday 10th October 2018, I attended the ‘Life at the Bar’ careers event at the University of Derby, which involved two barristers from Cornwall Street Barristers in Birmingham, Michael Trevelyan and Rebecca Keeves. The event provided some useful insight into what life as a barrister is like at the aforementioned Chambers and the different routes that can be taken to qualify and go into practice as a barrister. As neither Michael nor Rebecca had gone down the traditional route of completing the BPTC and acquiring Pupillage, I found this event particularly intriguing and useful.

To begin with, Michael and Rebecca explained how variable life at the Bar can be, and how each career differs, due to certain factors such as the Chambers that a barrister works at, the area of practice they go into and the route that they take to get to the Bar. They went on to talk about how barristers are still predominantly self-employed, providing them with a certain degree of flexibility as opposed to solicitors, the vast majority of whom are employed by firms. It was also mentioned, however, that there are an increasing number of barristers who are now employed by solicitors’ firms. They also discussed their own careers, and how they took alternative routes to get to the Bar. Rebecca, for instance, talked about how she received a CILEx qualification, became a solicitor and then qualified to become a barrister. She touched on the different aspects of her legal career, mentioning her time as a solicitor and comparing it to her current position as a barrister. I found this helpful, as it reinforced my ambition to pursue a career at the Bar, and additionally, it gave me a clearer idea of the positive and negative aspects of practicing as both a solicitor and a barrister. It was also discussed how areas of law differ, and how some areas of law require specific documentation from barristers, such as skeleton arguments.

Further into the talk, Michael and Rebecca focused on the importance of networking and public speaking. This is particularly crucial to anyone who wishes to pursue a career as a barrister, due to the significance of advocacy in their role. It is also important to develop a network of contacts within the legal profession, especially in terms of gaining a variety of skills and knowledge. In addition to this, they discussed the value of acquiring work experience in the legal field, including work experience in solicitors’ firms, as well as mini-pupillages, because this will demonstrate to a potential employer a willingness to try other aspects of the legal profession and that an individual has some experience of solicitors’ work. Consequently, the wider the variety of experience in the legal field that an individual may have acquired, the more employable they are likely to be.

To summarise, this event was very well presented, and provided those in attendance with some further insight into a career at the Bar. Furthermore, I was able to appreciate the profession from the perspective of two individuals who are in practice and have a lot of experience. I am very grateful that this event was possible, and I would once again like to thank Rebekah for organising it, as well as Michael and Rebecca for agreeing to deliver it!